When the Hummer H3 was introduced, its main competition was Toyota’s FJ Cruiser. Both offered trail prowess right off the showroom floor, with rear locking differentials and the ability to add 33-inch-tall tires with no suspension modifications. The aftermarket was quick to embrace the FJ Cruiser, offering everything from long-travel suspension kits to low-geared transfer cases, yet the Hummer H3 was largely overlooked. Instead of being discouraged by this neglect, Jacquelyne “Bebe” Theisen of Auburn, California, relied on creative parts’ sourcing and custom fabrication to turn her 2006 Hummer H3 into a capable trail runner.
We ran into Bebe on the Fordyce Creek Trail, where she was performing trail maintenance with the WeBilt 4x4 Club. She devotes much of her free time to land-use issues and preserving access to trails like Fordyce and the Rubicon. Her dedication to preserving the off road meant she needed a vehicle capable of traversing their rocky tracks. The foundation was already there in her H3. It came from the factory with the Adventure Package, which not only included the aforementioned 33-inch tires and selectable rear Eaton locker, but also a Borg-Warner 4493 transfer case with 4:1 gear reduction.
Bebe’s 2006 Hummer H3 is not a trailer queen. She wanted the end product to work in a variety of terrain but did not want to break the bank in the process. “The factory aluminum front diff housing can flex under hard use,” Bebe conceded. “And it only has 4 inches of travel in the front from the factory. Those were the two issues we were looking to address.”
It was a tall order, but Rick White and fabricator Jeff Hayer were up for the challenge. Hayer narrowed a solid Dana 44 housing from a Dodge truck to 297⁄8 inches to match the width of the original IFS housing, while Dean Reed of Performance Cryogenics handled the 35-spline stub shafts that are mated to a matching ARB Air Locker and Set 20 bearing retainers from Parts Mike. The CVs are not exotic Porsche parts, but factory CVs from a Chevy 2500 pickup that are stronger than the factory H3 components. The CVs also accommodate the 10 inches of travel available from the Fox 2-inch diameter coilovers that have replaced the factory torsion bars. “You can pick these CVs up for $120 at any Napa in the country,” Bebe relays. The steering rack is also a Chevy 2500 component, continuing the theme of being larger and stronger without the huge price tag associated with exotic, one-off parts.
Although the bulk of the effort focused on the front suspension, the rest of the H3 was not overlooked. “The rear was easy,” Bebe explains. “We did a spring-over conversion using the stock leaf springs and added Fox shocks and Samco Fabrication shackles.” Line-X was sprayed on the fender flares and along the A-pillar to provide abrasion resistance on the trail from branches.
Of course, it takes more than bedliner to fend off rocks. The front bumper from Neil Dana at H20 houses a Warn 9.5XP winch wrapped in Master Pull synthetic winch line and topped by a matching H20 grill guard. More H20 armor flanks the sides and rear of the H3 as well. The rear bumper has an air chuck plumbed to the Viair 450 compressor and 2.5-gallon tank mounted under the cargo bay.
What is next for Bebe’s 2006 Hummer H3? “I am pretty happy with how it performs on-road and off, but I am adding tube doors for better visibility and weight reduction,” she comments. “I also recently bought another H3 as a daily driver, so the sky is the limit now. It doesn’t ride as nice as my modified Hummer, but the mileage is better and this way I am not wearing out 38-inch-tall tires.”
As prices continue to come down on used H3s, we expect to see more of them on the trail in the future. Potential Hummer owners can look to Bebe as a pioneer on what is possible with a little imagination.
|2006 Hummer H3|
|Owner:||Jacquelyne Theisen, Auburn, California|
|Engine:||3.5-liter Vortec I-5|
|Transfer Case(s)/Ratio(s):||Borg Warner 4493/4:1|
|Front Axle:||IFS Dana 44, ARB Air Locker, 35-spline Dutchman axles, K2500 CVs, 5.13:1 gears|
|Rear Axle:||AAM 860 10-bolt with factory Eaton E-Locker, 5.13:1 gears|
|Suspension (f/r):||IFS with custom tubular A-arms, modified factory knuckles, Fox coilovers and air bumps/spring-over with factory leaf springs, Fox 2-in piggyback reservoir shocks, Samco Fabrication shackles|
|Steering:||Custom with Chevy 2500 components|
|Tires:||365/75R16 BFGoodrich Mud Terrain KM2|
|Wheels:||Hutchinson two-piece double beadlock|
|Cool Extras:||Warn 9.5XP winch, Master Pull winch line, Wayne Hartwig PCM programming, custom stainless exhaust, MagnaFlow muffler|